Saturday, June 15, 2002

Paris, France

musee du Louvre

The gardens surrounding the Louvre are stunning, of course, but more importantly (to us) they marked our first opportunity to carry on une (very!) petite conversation entirely in French with someone who was even less familiar with their French phrase book than we were with ours.

This "entrance" was just before the official entrance to the Louvre.  We're not quite sure what it is, but it looked tall and impressive enough that we felt compelled to get a picture of it.

The massive building in this picture is the Louvre Palace.  Originally built as a fortress in the late 12th century, the palace was expanded many times before eventually becoming the display place for the royal collection when Louis XIV made the Palace of Versailles his primary residence.  The glass pyramid in the center was designed by I.M. Pei and is the entrance to the museum.

The Venus de Milo:  one of the three famous ladies on display at the Louvre.  The crowds around her should have prepared us for what we would find when we made it to the Mona Lisa!

This tile mosaic filled an entire floor (look closely to the right.  You'll see the rail around the floor and what appears to be another visitor's leg).  Josh took this picture by leaning out of an opening in the wall on the next floor up.  I, meanwhile, helped the process by squeezing my eyes together really tightly, holding my breath (and the camera strap) and thinking of all the ways I'd kill him if he fell through, hit his head on the floor and died.  Great teamwork = a great picture, dontcha think?

Mona Lisa:  the smiling lady herself.  The actual piece is a bit underwhelming.  The painting is probably 3 ft wide by 4 ft tall, but in comparison to all the massive paintings we had already seen, it didn't seem much bigger than a wallet sized photo.  Taking a picture of her is quite an adventure -- first you have to wade through the thousands of tourists gathered at her shrine, wait for Cousin Bob to get his big head out of the way, and then time it so that the millions of camera flashes (which seem to go off at a rate of about 1 million per second) don't interfere with the flash of your camera.  The result is what you see -- rather blurry, thanks to the bullet proof glass that she's encased in and the gentleman who chose that exact moment to step on my toe.

Try as we might, we can't remember that this is.  Not quite as big as the Easter Island heads, but still impressive what can be done with rock on rock.  And, it also holds the distinction of being the sole picture that we took from the wing in the Louvre devoted to art from Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas.

We nearly missed this picture altogether, even though it is about 10 feet long. It was up at the top of the room, above cubicle like walls that other paintings were hanging on -- I'm not sure what prompted us to look up, but our neck-craning efforts certainly paid off!  There were other, equally remarkable and equally big paintings on the other three walls in the room that we nearly missed as well.

Here's the Louvre's third famous lady -- the Winged Victory of Samothrace. She is thought to have been sculpted to commemorate a naval victory, hence her placement on the prow of a stone warship.

I was struck by the vibrant colors in this piece -- no wonder the old cathedrals chose to fill as many spaces as they could with stained glass windows!

We enjoyed lovely tomato and (something French) sandwiches on freshly made baguettes on the benches overlooking this interior courtyard before heading back in for a few more pictures on a few more floors in a few more wings.



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